Written by Alyssa Rodriguez, PhD student in the Department of History at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York.
In my current studies, I seek to understand more of the Russian mentality during the Brezhnev era, and how mentality shifted through a study of the self. I have begun my study by looking through the eyes of dissenters, studying the experiences of sane individuals confined to psychiatric hospitals or otherwise ostracized from society. I have studied mentality through the written works of individuals as well, analyzing novels and primary sources in order to understand more about the perception dissenters carried of their own political system. I seek to expand my study to more broadly look at the self during the Brezhnev Era, and have found that studying the Russian language will be an instrumental part of this process.
By participating in the Summer Language Workshop (SLW) with funding from the Russian Studies Workshop, I have already found my language skills improving by leaps and bounds. As I begin to engage again with the Russian language after a large gap in my education, I find myself more capable of speaking comfortably and understanding the intricacies of the language itself. I would like to improve my language skills even further in order to directly engage with my primary sources. Using the grammatical skills that I’ve learned at SLW, I hope to be able to understand the true meaning of my authors instead of relying on a translation that may be biased or inexact.
At the same time, my speaking skills will assist me in my future travels to Russian archives as I become more capable of understanding others and learning from the experiences of current Russian citizens. I would like to be able to use the skills learned from the SLW in order to improve my Russian even further and become more natural at speaking a language that has become a large part of my studies. With a greater mastery of the language, I hope to be able to visit some of the places of my research, perhaps including some of the mental facilities I have studied, such as the Serbsky Institute of General and Forensic Psychiatry, in order to see the location first-hand.